SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN)will provide tremendous boost to the space entrepreneurial ecosystem through public-private collaboration for start-ups and SMEs in the space industry
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and 'Social Alpha' signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on December 6, 2022, to launch SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN). Social Alpha, having supported more than 200 start-ups including 60+ seed investments since its inception in 2016, is a multistage innovation curation and venture development platform for science and technology start-ups to address the most critical social, economic, and environmental challenges through the power of entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations.
SpIN has already launched its first innovation challenge.Selected start-ups and innovators will be able to access both Social Alpha's and ISRO's infrastructure and resources.
SpIN is another significant step in India's reforms in the space sector. It will provide tremendous boost to the space entrepreneurial ecosystem through public-private collaboration for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the space industry. The primary focus of SpIN will be for facilitating space tech entrepreneurs in the following categories of innovations:
According to the Economic Survey Report 2021-2022, there are now over 100 active space start-ups in India, their number having doubled in the last year. ISRO Chairman S. Somnath says, "Space applications cut across various domains from earth to sky. Innovative technologies are expected to bring paradigm shift in utilising the space applications to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits for the larger society. I wish the SPIN platform would be useful for various stakeholders to collaborate and contribute to the space ecosystem in the country".
SpIN has already launched its first innovation challenge.Early-stage start-ups for developing solutions in areas of maritime and land transportation, urbanisation, mapping and surveying, disaster management, food security, sustainable agriculture, environmental monitoring, and natural resources management among others are encouraged to apply. Applications are open from December 6, 2022, to February 6, 2023. Selected start-ups and innovators will be able to access both Social Alpha's and ISRO's infrastructure and resources.
India and UAE joint space cooperation is on the verge of taking a big leap in the Arabian Peninsula as the two sides have prioritised increased bilateral space cooperation
India is keen to bolster bilateral cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the space sector. Union Minister of State (MoS) for Science and Technology led a delegation to UAE in December 2022 at the 'Abu Dhabi Space Debate' (a two-day international event) which also included a Ministerial Plenary on the 'Role of Foreign Policy in Enabling Space Diplomacy and International Cooperation'. He also held delegation level talks with Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairperson of the UAE Space Agency to discuss ways and means to further strengthen bilateral space cooperation. Jitendra Singh has said that India and UAE joint space cooperation is on the verge of taking a big leap in the Arabian Peninsula as the two sides have prioritised increased bilateral space cooperation.
UAE is an emerging space power in the Gulf region. In February 2017, UAE's 'Nayif-1' nanosatellite was among 104 satellites launched by ISRO's PSLV from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. In September 2019, Hanzala Al Mansoori became the first from UAE to go to the International Space Station (ISS) for eight days through a Russian spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan. In 2020, UAE launched its Mars mission 'Hope Probe' which entered the Mars orbit in February 2021. UAE is planning to launch 'Rashid Rover' (Emirates Lunar Mission) in the near future. This month, the UAE Space Agency signed an MoU with the Philippine Space Agency (PhiSA) to enhance cooperation in scientific research, space exploration and knowledge exchange.
ISRO had earlier said the manned Gaganyaan space mission would be held in December 2024; having been delayed by the pandemic from its earlier schedule in December 2020. However, news reports of December 8, 2022 indicate that the government wants ISRO to undertake the manned mission "before" the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Now the two preceding unmanned missions (TV-D1 and TV-D2) are expected to be undertaken in February 2023 and December 2023 respectively. TV-D1 will test the crew escape system while TV-D2 will test "all parameters" of the flight.
In an important space-related development, the US, China and Russia (three top space powers) have refused to sign the Moon Treaty, viewing it far too restrictive
Interestingly, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Japan's largest online clothes retailer 'Zozotown' has announced an eight-person private mission (a DJ, a musician, a choreographer and performer, two photographers, a YouTuber, a filmmaker, an actor) around the moon on a SpaceX flight. One dancer and one snowboarder are back up as crew members. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX had announced in 2018 that Maezawa will be the first private customer to ride around the Moon on the company's future rocket – Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). Wonder if any Indian billionaires would do similarly for commoners even when indigenous spacecraft get flying to space?
Meanwhile, three Chinese astronauts on board the Shenzhou-14 manned spaceship returned to Earth on December 5, 2022 after completing their six-month space station mission. The trio conducted an in-orbit rotation with the Shenzhou-15 crew. Shenzhou-15 astronauts are tasked to wrap up the final stage of the space station construction and kick off the first stage of its application and development.
In an important space-related development,the US, China and Russia (three top space powers) have refused to sign the Moon Treaty, viewing it far too restrictive. The US view apparently is in line with the saying: "Possession is 9/10th of the Law" –whoever gets to the material first gets to do what he wants with it. Therefore, China wants to plant its flag at the earliest, take ownership of the lunar land, mining rights and colonisation impetus; taking advantage of the US focus on warmongering and plan to control the global economy and supply chains.
China is also fired up by the personal ambition of President Xi Jinping for China to replace the US as number one in the world. Besides, Xi had once claimed that a Chinese princess was married to the Moon in ancient times – he may yet stake claim on the lunar land quoting that while posing as half alien from that lineage.